LicensingSource chats to head of global licensing, Emily Aldridge on how the gifting specialist is driving forward thanks to local market knowledge and its unique product strategy.
Like many businesses, the last 12-18 months have been about adapting and adjusting for Abysse Corp. However, despite the challenges, the company has continued on its strong growth path, building on its portfolio of anime, gaming, film, TV and music properties.
Solid performances from big anime names such as One Piece, My Hero Academia, Naruto and Dragonball Z have combined with new licences like Demon Slayer and Jujutsu Kaisen. Brands from Warner Bros., Disney and Universal have been key to Abysse’s entertainment slate, while gaming ranges from World of Warcraft and League of Legends have been notable successes.
“We are also just making our first steps into the world of esports which I think could be very interesting,” Emily Aldridge, head of global licensing at Abysse tells us. “Music is now a focus for the company for the first time due to the vast experience in the area brought to the company by GB eye and we are really looking forward to building on the base that they have established.”
Abysse acquired GB eye earlier this year, giving it a strong base in the UK with over 30 years’ worth of experience in the poster and wall art business.
Emily continues: “The teams have all integrated really well, even with the obstacle of no one being able to meet face to face due to Covid travel restrictions. There have been some changes in roles and product strategy in order to make us the most efficient team possible and I’m really looking forward to seeing how things develop over the next few years, as we have really created a juggernaut of a company.”
Abysse had been expecting a consolidated turnover close to €60 million for 2021, but a bumper first half performance has resulted in some revisions, as Emily explains: “We are on track and in fact the new projection is more like €65M due to an incredible first half performance. The growth has come from huge investment in staff and growing our teams in all areas. This has led to amazing innovations in products, improvements in product quality and new retail doors opened by the teams.”
As well as the head office in France’s Rouen, Abysse has ten other branches around the world, with Emily describing the sales teams and local branches as being the “driving force” behind the company’s growth.
“The local sales teams can establish brilliant relationships with retailers and can get to know their markets and the nuances that are so important to make sure we are offering the right products and designs for each country,” she says. “The added complications caused by Brexit make this even more important as we are able to keep trading freely.”
2020 also really highlighted the difference between being an FOB business and having a domestic business model. Emily adds: “As we have the latter, we have been able to carry on trading successfully and have had the versatility and stock to be able to meet the regular changing demands of our customers as the landscape changed.”
Of course, there have still been challenges, with Emily saying that the uncertainty of the market is a constant worry. “We now know how quickly things can change and we are conscious that the pandemic is still very much a factor in the foreseeable future,” she says. “This makes projecting and planning very difficult. I’m personally really looking forward to getting back to seeing all the familiar faces I’ve missed so much in the past 18 months.”
Emily has very clear goals going forward on what she would like to achieve with the business.
“My goal since starting at Abysse last year has been to elevate the Abysse name among the UK licensors and retailers and make sure everyone is aware of the amazing work we do. The lack of events has been a bit of a hurdle, but we have made really good progress and by the end of the year I’d like to make sure that I’m the first person people contact when they want to sign an all-round gifting partner.”
Longer term, the aim is to push on with the global strategy and increase Abysse’s presence in some of its newer territories.
“The team at Abysse are all so passionate about what they do and this is so evident in the results we are achieving,” Emily concludes. “Our product strategy is unique and everything that we bring to market is considered and created with the end customer in mind. We are unchallenged in Europe due to our direct relationships and domestic stock and so, for any licensors wanting a partner who can really penetrate all markets, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.”
Abysse was originally founded in 2003 with the goal to import licensed anime and manga products from Japan and the US and distribute them into France.
“As time went on, it was clear that there was more demand than supply and in 2007 we created the brand ‘Abystyle’ to create our own licensed products,” Emily explains. “Our catalogue now spans over 150 licences covering all entertainment genres – anime, music, film, TV and gaming – and our product range is vast to make sure that we create the right product for each licence. Our focus is on innovation and creating products that are made by fans, for fans.
“Our head office is in Rouen, but we have ten other branches around the world giving us local market knowledge and direct retail relationships in all key territories.”